by Christine Baksi
Dickinson, in collaboration with several other Pennsylvania schools and the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium (PERC), is organizing the PA Power Dialog—one of 30 Power Dialogs being held in state capitals across the nation—to bring together college students, regulators and legislators to discuss state-level implementation of the federal Clean Power Plan. Pennsylvania’s Power Dialog will be held on Monday, April 4, in the State Museum in Harrisburg.
The goal of PA Power Dialog is to provide Pennsylvania college and university students the opportunity to share ideas with one another, as well as with state officials, about opportunities, challenges and responsibilities for taking action on climate change. “Pennsylvania and other states have important decisions to make about implementing the federal Clean Power Plan, a central piece of the U.S. strategy for combating climate change. Power Dialog gives college students a voice in that process,” says Neil Leary, director of the Center for Sustainability Education at Dickinson College, and lead organizer of Pennsylvania’s Power Dialog event.
Assistant Professor of Economics Anthony Underwood and 25 students enrolled in his environmental economics course will participate in the PA Power Dialog. He says it presents students with a unique opportunity to experience the complexities of environmental policymaking. “Seeing firsthand how the tools of economics can help design effective policy solutions and demonstrate these solutions to stakeholders is a crucial component of training in economics,” he adds.
Students will take a close look at the issues, challenges and opportunities generated in Pennsylvania through implementation of the Clean Power Plan, and will write suggested recommendations for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to consider. “I hope the students come away from this experience having learned that engagement matters,” says Underwood. “Understanding what is at stake and the hard work necessary to make change, policy or otherwise, is vital to the future of the planet, of the nation and of Pennsylvania.”
The program includes a keynote talk by DEP Secretary John Quigley; opening remarks by Robert Altenburg, director of the PennFuture Energy Center on Enterprise and the Environment; three student panel discussions to present student work and viewpoints; a panel of state regulators and legislators to discuss opportunities and challenges for implementing the Clean Power Plan; and small-group roundtable discussions. Joining Quigley and Altenburg will be Mark Szybist, senior program advocate for energy and transportation for the Natural Resources Defense Council; Gladys Brown, chair of the Public Utility Commission; and Patrick McDonnell, director of policy for DEP.
The Clean Power Plan is a set of new rules established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in August 2015 for electric power plants designed to reduce climate-changing carbon emissions. The plan allows each state, including Pennsylvania, flexibility to establish its own implementation plan for meeting the federal standards. When fully implemented in 2030, the Clean Power Plan will cut national carbon pollution from the electric power sector by 32 percent. The DEP is in the process of developing a State Implementation Plan for Pennsylvania.
Dickinson is leading the planning committee for the event. Other institutions represented on the planning committee are Pennsylvania State University, Widener University School of Law, Ursinus College, Millersville University and Villanova University. Approximately 230 students from these institutions, as well as Allegheny College, Bucknell University, Swarthmore College, Gettysburg College, Elizabethtown College, Messiah College, Moravian College, Shippensburg University and Susquehanna University, will participate.
Power Dialogs are planned for 30 states with the support of the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College. Thousands of college and university students are expected to attend. Andy Revkin of The New York Times calls the events “an exciting effort to mesh learning and civic engagement around the nation’s efforts to curtail power plant emissions of carbon dioxide, the main human-generated gas contributing to global warming.”
Published March 24, 2016